HERE BEGINS THE TREATISE ON FISHING WITH AN ANGLE
(attributed to Dame Juliana Berners)
Solomon in his proverbs says that a good spirit makes a flowering age, that is, a happy age and a long one. And since it is true, I ask this question, 'Which are the means and the causes that lead a man into a happy spirit?" Truly, in my best judgement, it seems that they are good sports and honest games which a man enjoys without any repentance afterward. Thence it follows that good sports and honest games are the cause of a man's happy old age and long life. And therefore, I will now choose among four good sports and honest games: to wit, of hunting, hawking, fishing, and fowling. The best, in my simple opinion, is fishing, called angling, with a rod and a line and a hook. And of that I will talk as my simple mind will permit: not only because of the reasoning of Solomon, but also for the assertion that medical science makes in this manner:
Si tibi deficiant medici, medici tibi fiant
Haec tria-mens laeta, labor, et moderatadiaeta.
You shall understand that this means, if a man lacks leech or medicine, he shall make three things his leech and medicine, and he will never need any more. The first of them is a happy mind. The second is work which isn't too onerous. The third is a good diet, First, if a man wishes ever more to have merry thoughts and be happy, he must avoid all quarrelsome company and all places of debate, where he might have any causes to be upset. And if he wishes to have a job which is not too hard, he must then organise, for his relaxation and pleasure, without care, anxiety, or trouble, a cheerful occupation which gives him good heart and in which will raise his spirits. And if he wishes to have a moderate diet, he must avoid all places of revelry, which is the cause of overindulgence and sickness. And he must withdraw himself to places of sweet and hungry air, and eat nourishing and digestible meats.
Now then, I will describe these sports or games to establish, as well as I can, which is the best of them; although the right noble and very worthy prince, the Duke of York, lately called the Master of Game, has described the pleasures of hunting, just as I would describe it and all the others. For hunting, to my way of thinking, is too laborious. The hunter must always run and follow his hounds, exercising and sweating heavily. He blows on his horn till his lips blister; and when he thinks he is chasing a hare, very often it is a hedgehog. Thus he hunts and knows not what he is after. He comes home in the evening soaking through, scratched, his clothes torn, his feet wet, covered in mud. This hound lost and that one crippled. Such upsets and many others happen to the hunter which, for fear of the displeasure of the hunters, I dare not discuss. Thus, in truth, it seems to me that this is not the best sport or game of the four mentioned. The sport of hawking is hard work and difficult too, it seems to me. For the falconer often loses his hawks, as the hunter his hounds. Then his game and pleasure is gone. Very often he shouts and whistles till he has a raging thirst. His hawk flies to a branch and ignores him. When he would have her fly at game, then she wants a bath. With poor feeding she will get the frounce, the ray, the cray, and many other illnesses that cause them to die. This proves that this is not the best sport and game of the four discussed. The sport and game of fowling seems to me the worst. For in winter season the fowler has no luck except in the hardest and coldest weather, which is burdensome. When he would go to his traps, he cannot because of the cold. He makes many traps and snares, yet he fares badly. In the morning, the dew soaks him up to his thighs. I could say more, but will leave off for fear of upset. Thus, it seems to me that hunting and hawking and also fowling are so tiresome and unpleasant that none of them can succeed nor can they be the best way of bringing a man into a happy frame of mind, which is the cause of long life according to the said proverb of Solomon. Doubtless then, it follows that the winner should be the sport of fishing with a hook. For every other kind of fishing is also tiresome and unpleasant, often making folks very wet and cold, which many times has been the cause of great illness. But the angler will not suffer cold nor discomfort nor anger, unless he be the cause himself. For he can lose at the most only a line or a hook, of which he can have plenty of his own making, as this simple treatise will teach him. So then his loss is not serious, and nothing else can upset him, except that some fish may break away after he has been hooked, or else he may catch nothing: these are not serious. For if the angler fails with one, he may not fail with another, if he does as this treatise teaches: unless there are no fish in the water. And yet, at the very least, he has his wholesome and pleasant walk at his ease, and a sweet breath of the fragrant smell of the meadow flowers, to make him hungry. He hears the melodious harmony of birds. He sees the young swans, herons, ducks, coots, and many other birds with their broods, which to me seems better than all the noise of hounds, the blasts of horns, and the clamour of birds that hunters, falconers, and fowlers can produce. And if the angler catches fish, surely then there is no happier man. Also whoever wishes to practice the sport of angling, he must rise early, which thing is profitable to a man in this way. That is, to wit: most for the welfare of his soul. For it will cause him to be holy, and for the health of his body. For it will cause him to be well, also for the increase of his goods, for it will make him rich. As the old English proverb says: "Whoever will rise early shall be holy, healthy, and happy."
Thus have I proved, as I intended, that the sport and game of angling is the best means and cause that brings a man into a merry spirit, which according to the said proverb of Solomon and the said teaching of medicine makes a flowering age and a long one. And therefore, to all you that are virtuous, gentle, and freeborn, I write and make this simple treatise which follows, by which you may have the full craft of angling to amuse you as you please, in order that your life may be more successful and last longer.
If you want to be crafty in angling, you must first learn to make your tackle, that is, your rod, your lines of different colours. After that, you must know how you should angle, in what place of the water, how deep, and what time of day. For what manner of fish, in what weather; how many impediments there are in the fishing that is called angling. And especially with what baits for each different fish in each month of the year. How you shall make your baits breed. Where you will find the baits: and how you will keep them. And for the most crafty thing, how you are to make your hooks of steel and of iron. Some for the artificial fly: and some for the float and the ground-line, as you will hear afterward all these things talked about openly so that you may learn.
And how you should make your rod skilfully, here I shall teach you. You must cut, between Michaelmas and Candlemas, a fair staff of a fathom and a half long and as thick as your arm, of hazel, willow, or ash. And soak it in a hot oven, and set it straight. Then let it cool and dry for a month. Take them and tie it tight with a cockshoot cord, and bind it to a form or a perfectly square, large piece of timber. Then take a plumb wire that is smooth and straight and sharp at one end. And heat the sharp end in a charcoal fire till it is white-hot: and then burn the staff through with it: always straight in the pith at both ends, till they meet. And after that, burn it in the lower end with a spit for roasting birds, and with other spits, each bigger than the last, and always the largest last: so that you make your hole taper. Then let it lie still and cool for two days. Untie it then and let it dry in a house-roof in the smoke until it is thoroughly dry. In the same season, take a good rod of green hazel, and soak it even and straight and let it dry with the staff. And when they are dry, make the rod fit the hole in the staff, into half the length of the staff. And to make the other half of the top section, take a fair shoot of blackthorn, crabtree, medlar, or juniper, cut in the same season: and well soaked and straight. And bind them together neatly so that the top section may go exactly all the way into the said hole. Then shave your staff down and make it taper. Then bind the staff at both ends with long hoops of iron or fasten in the neatest manner, with a spike in the lower end fastened with a catch so that you can take your top section in and out. Then set your upper section a handbreadth inside the other end of your staff in such a way that the thickness of the sections matches. Bind your top section at the other end as far down as the joint with a cord of six hairs. Fix the cord and tie it firmly at the top, with a loop to fasten on your fishing line. And so you will make yourself a rod so secret that you can walk with it, and no one will know what you are doing. It will be light and well balanced to fish with as you wish.
And for your greater convenience, here is a picture of it as an example:
After you have made your rod, you must learn to colour your lines of hair this way. First, you must take, from the tail of a white horse, the longest and best hairs that you can find; and the rounder it is, the better it is. Divide it into six bunches, and you shall colour every part by itself in a different colour. As yellow, green, brown, tawny, russet, and dusky colours.
And to make a good green colour on your hair, you shall do thus. Take a quart of small ale and put it in a little pan, and add to it half a pound of alum. And put your hair in it, and let it boil softly half an hour. Then take out your hair and let it dry. Then take a half-gallon of water and put it in a pan. And put in it two handfuls of a yellow dye, and press it with a tile-stone, and let it boil gently half an hour. And when it is yellow on the scum, put in your hair with half a pound copperas, beaten to powder, and let it boil gently half an hour. And then set it down and let it cool five or six hours. Then take out the hair and dry it. And it is then the finest green there is for the water, And the more copperas you add to it, the better it is. Or else instead, use verdigris.
Another way, you can make a brighter green, thus. Woad your hair in a woad vat until it is a light blue-grey colour. And then boil it in yellow vegetable dye as I have described, except that you must not add to it either copperas or verdigris.
To make your hair yellow, prepare it with alum as I have explained already. And after that with yellow vegetable dye without copperas or verdigris.
Another yellow you shall make thus. Take a half a gallon of small ale, and crush three handfuls of walnut leaves, and put them together. And put in your hair until it is as deep a yellow as you will have it.
To make russet hair, take of strong lye a pint and a half and half a pound of soot and a little juice of walnut leaves and a quarter of a pound of alum; and put them all together in a pan and boil them well. And when it is cold, put in your hair till it is as dark as you will have it.
To make a brown colour, take a pound of soot and a quart of ale, and boil it with as many walnut leaves as you wish. And when they turn black, take it off the fire. And put your hair in it, and let it lie still till it is as brown as you will have it.
To make another brown, take strong ale and soot and blend them together, and put therein your hair for two days and two nights, and it will be a right good colour.
To make a tawny colour, take lime and water, and put them together; and also put your hair therein four or five hours. Then take it out and put it in tanner's ooze a day, and it will be as fine a tawny colour as we need for our purpose.
The sixth part of your hair, you must keep still white for lines for the dubbed hook, to fish for the trout and grayling, and for small lines to use for the roach and the dace.
When your hair is thus coloured, you must know for which waters and for which seasons they should be used. The green colour in all clear water from April till September. The yellow colour in every clear water from September till November: for it is like the weeds and other types of grass which grow in the waters and rivers, when they are broken. The russet colour serves all the winter until the end of April, as well in rivers as in pools or lakes. The brown colour serves for that water that is black, sluggish, in rivers or in other waters. The tawny colour for those waters that are heathy or marshy.
Now you must make your lines in this way. First, see that you have an instrument like the one shown in the following picture. Then take your hair and cut off from the small end a large handful or more, for it is neither strong nor yet sure. Then turn the top to the tail each in equal amount, and divide it into three parts. Then plait each part at the one end by itself. And at the other end plait all three together: and put this same end in the other end of your instrument, the end that has but one cleft. And make the other end tight with the wedge four fingers from the end of your hair. Then twist each strand the same way and pull it tight: and fasten them in the three clefts equally well. Then take out that other end and twist it whichever way it goes best. Then stretch it a little and plait it so that it will not come undone: and that is good. And to know how to make your instrument, see, here it is in a picture. And it shall be made of wood, except the bolt underneath; which must be of iron.
When you have as many of the lengths as you suppose will suffice for the length of a line, then you must tie them together with a water knot or else a duchess knot. And when your knot is tied, cut off the unused ends a straw's breadth from the knot. Thus you will make your lines fair and fine, and also completely secure for any type of fish. And because you should know both the water knot and also the duchess knot, behold them here in picture. Tie them in the likeness of the drawing.
You shall understand that the subtlest and hardest art in making your tackle is to make your hooks. For the making of which you must have suitable files, thin and sharp and beaten small; a semi-clamp of iron: a bender: a pair of long and small tongs: a hard knife, somewhat thick: an anvil: and a little hammer. And for small fish you shall make your hooks in this manner, of the smallest square needles of steel that you can find. You shall put the square needle in a red charcoal fire till it is of the same colour as the fire. Then take it out and let it cool, and you will find it well tempered for filing. Then raise the barb with your knife and make the point sharp. Then temper it again, for otherwise it will break in the bending. Then bend it like the bend shown here as an example. And you shall make greater hooks in the same way out of larger needles: such as embroiderers' or tailors' or shoemakers' needles. Spear points or shoemakers' needles especially are the best hooks for great fish. And [see that they bend] at the point when they are tested; otherwise they are not good. When the hook is bent, beat the hinder end out broad, and file it smooth to prevent fraying of your line. Then put it in the fire again and give it an easy red heat. Then suddenly quench it in water, and it will be hard and strong. And for you to have knowledge of your instruments, see them here in portrayed in the picture.
When you have made your hooks as you have been taught, then you must attach them on your lines, according to size and strength in this manner. You must take fine red silk, and if it is for a large hook, then double it, don't twist it. Otherwise, for small hooks, let it be single: and with it, thickly bind the line there for a straw's breadth from the end of the hook where your line is placed. Then set your hook there, and wrap it with the same thread for two-thirds of the length that is to be wrapped. And when you come to the third part, turn the end of your line back upon the wrapping, double, and wrap it thus double for the third part. Then put your thread in at the loop twice or thrice, and let it go each time round about the shank of your hook. Then wet the loop and pull it until it is tight. And be sure that your line always lies inside your hooks and not outside. Then cut off the end of the line and the thread as close as you can without cutting the knot.
Now that you know how big a hook to angle with for every fish, I will tell you with how many hairs you must angle for every kind of fish. For the minnow, with a line of one hair. For the growing roach, the bleak, the gudgeon, and the ruffee, with a line of two hairs. For the dace and the great roach, with a line of three hairs. For the perch, the flounder, and small bream, with four hairs. For the chevin-chub, the bream, the tench, and the eel, with six hairs. For the trout, grayling, barbel, and the great chub, with nine hairs. For the great trout, with twelve hairs. For the salmon, with fifteen hairs. And for the pike, with a chalk line made brown with your brown colouring as described earlier, strengthened with a wire, as you will hear hereafter when I speak of the pike.
Your lines must be weighted with lead, and you must know that the nearest sinker to the hook should be a full foot and more separated from it, and every sinker of a weight suitable for the thickness of the line. There are three kinds of sinkers for a running ground-line. And for the float set upon the stationary ground-line ten weights all joining together. On the running ground-line, nine or ten small ones. The float sinker must be so heavy that the least pluck of any fish can pull it down into the water. And make your weights round and smooth so that they do not stick on stones or on weeds. And for the better understanding see them here in picture.
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